Extra! Extra! “Ghost Signs” in L.A.

A century ago downtown Los Angeles was where the action was, and every hotel, menswear emporium and café was competing for customers – and that meant advertising. The simplest way to do this was to paint a huge colorful sign on the side of your building and tempt people from way down the street.

P1040156Today we’re used to digital billboards, but you can still go downtown and seek out lots of these forgotten – and usually hidden – “ghost signs.” Many are carefully wound and crafted around windows and roof tops, one using an arrow to make the point that you could get “smarter clothes” below.

P1030319Some are badly faded or have had their message hidden by buildings that sprung up later, but start walking from Broadway to Wilshire and make quadrants of blocks in the Historic Core. Explore – safely! – some of the alleys, where you’ll find more than dumpsters and broken glass, and don’t ignore parking lot walls.

P1030260There’s no organized tour, so you’ve every chance of uncovering something secret. Gems include Clifton’s Silver Spoon (7th St),

P1030300the Spreckels Building (Hill St)

P1030353and the Palace Newsreel Theatre (Broadway), offering seats at just 35c.

P1030263The trend never went away here, and you can even see older ghosts signs under the new ones put up on hip apartments – just don’t forget your camera!